SMILING FACES, SOUR CHERRIES – Marilyn Armstrong

Bad days are like sour cherries. Even in a great batch of fruit, you hit some duds. As you munch, you’re going to get some berries that are overripe, sour, or bitter. You bite into them, make a face, and put them aside. You don’t eat them because they don’t taste good.

Life is like this. Day follows day. Some days suck.

The past couple of years have been difficult. Too many bad days, too many days of feeling helplessly enraged by events far beyond my control. Too much anger in me and in the air and all around. Too many prices going up while our incomes never change.

I suppose I could have smiled on through, but I didn’t want to, any more than I felt like eating sour cherries. I had a right to be angry and saw no reason to pretend otherwise.

Was I wrong?

I don’t think so. People who care about us will cut us some slack. Leave us emotional space to get over what’s bothering us and what’s more, they should. You’d do it for them, wouldn’t you?

The whole “stay positive” thing is out of control. If the proponents of permanent smiles are to be taken seriously, no one will ever frown again. No tears, no sadness, no anger. Ever. There will be one acceptable emotion. Happiness. We will all wear a Happy Face. Happy, happy, happy. No matter what. Has anyone read or seen The Stepford Wives?

Original 1960 George of the Jungle cartoon

So, what’s your problem? Losing your home to foreclosure? Got cancer? Heart Disease? No job? No prospects? Don’t be mad or sad. You’ll be fine. No matter what those doctors are saying, no matter that you don’t have a place to live. Or a life. Or a future.

According to the proponents of Happy Face, no problem is so big it can’t be overcome with a positive attitude and a bright smile. I’m betting most of the people who believe in Happy Face have never confronted an intractable problem. One day, their fake smiles will catch up with them. They will crash and burn. The corners of their mouths will turn down and their faces will shatter on impact.

I’m not suggesting we all walk around sneering, sulking, and grumpy, but we need to be allowed to express what we feel. Otherwise, life becomes a total fake.

NOW WE SEE AS IN A MIRROR DARKLY – Marilyn Armstrong

Perspective

1 Corinthians

11   When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

12   For now we see as in a mirror darkly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I too am known.

Winter’s dawn – If you look carefully, you’ll see birds on many of the branches. They are waiting for the sun to come up a little more — then, breakfast.

I’m not usually big on quoting the bible, but sometimes, nothing else says it better.

I was an “old” child. When I was very young, I talked like a much older person. I read “adult person” literature and thought of myself as very mature. I wasn’t. I was intellectually precocious, but still a child. Who used big words and almost understood many adult things.

Almost. There are a whole lot of things that simply don’t make sense until you’ve lived a life. Reading about life isn’t living it. A child, no matter how smart, is never more mature than his or her years and experience. That’s perspective.

Perspective isn’t static. At 10, you see things through 10-year-old eyes. As years and decades roll on, you see the same things differently, sometimes extremely so. Perhaps you really do see through a glass darkly. Or you should. If decades of living don’t change your perspective, something is wrong with you or your life. We are supposed to change. That which does not change is not living.

I hear people my age or even younger saying “Well, that’s the way I am. I’m not going to change.”

Yeats' Grave

There’s a terrible finality in that statement. A sad finality, a eulogy for “self-growth.” Someday, I’ll be too old or sick to change. An end comes to all. Until then, I hope my perspective keeps changing. I hope I revise my opinions often and contradict myself frequently.

Perspective and growth are life.

WHO SAID LIFE IS FAIR? – Marilyn Armstrong

With shock and grief, I hear the wailing of betrayed youth. They have made the awfulest Big Discovery.


Life is unfair.


You work hard, perform brilliantly yet wind up bruised and forgotten. Then again, you might find yourself famous, rich, and covered with honors. It’s not cause and effect, though we like to think it is … until the economy, health, or other people betray those beliefs.

The younger me knew — with 100% certainty — that work, talent, ambition and determination were magic. The older me learned you can do everything right, follow all the rules and then some, and it still doesn’t work out.

bankruptcy

I did it all. I worked hard and with more than due diligence. I smiled when I wanted to snarl to keep that critical positive attitude. I was creative. I gave it my all.

I did okay, but while I worked hard and put in overtime, I watched the suck-ups, second-raters, and those who worked cheaper if not better, move past me. I came in early and stayed late while they went to meetings and took long lunches. If I’d gone to more meetings, would that have changed the outcome?

Somehow, I doubt it. I can’t be someone I’m not, though I sure did try. It’s out of my hands. I’m a passenger on this bus and it’s a long ride ahead of me (I hope).

Former belief: Play by The Rules, give it your all. You are bound to “make it.”

Current belief: Do the best you can and hope for a bit of luck and a boss who really likes you. Oh, and a company that won’t go bankrupt before you get paid. If not, enjoy life. It’s the only one you’ve got.

We tell our kids if they do it all right they will get that pot of gold. We don’t tell them that work sucks. Most of their bosses will be morons who know less than they do and have less talent.

But we also were right. They will earn a reward: the satisfaction of knowing they did their best. It’s a big reward. Everyone can count on it and no one can take away.

We have to try. If we succeed and for a while, we get a piece of the good stuff, at least enough to feel it wasn’t a waste of time, that’s great. For some, it just doesn’t happen. Bad luck? Wrong attitude? Crappy economy? Not quite enough talent?

And you have to know that trying may not be enough. You also need talent and luck and good timing.

Sometimes, you need a better agent.

I no longer believe in inevitable triumph. There’s always a chance you’ll make it to the top and it’s fantastic if the magic works. For me, realism has replaced optimism. Everyone’s best achievement is living up to our best self. If this also turns into a success, I’ll wear your t-shirt. If not, this is an achievement no one can ruin. You can’t control the world, but you can control yourself.

Life’s a roller coaster. You’re up and then you’re down. Screaming, crying, laughing … you go where the rails take you. Life will surprise you and sometimes a loss becomes a winner and will give you moments of unimagined joy.

Rejoice when times are good, but if you must, cope with the darkness. You can learn a lot in the dark.

PROVOCATIVE QUESTION – CONTROLLING OUR LIVES – Marilyn Armstrong

Fandango’s Provocative Question #40

And so the question is:

Control is an illusion. It’s what we all believe we’ve got until our life takes a sharp turn and hits a big rock or slides into the ditch. Crash.

All of your firm beliefs that nothing can stop you doesn’t help because there are things — many things — that can stop you.

I love when people tell me nothing can stop them, that whatever they want, they can get it. All they have to do is want it enough. I don’t argue with people who talk like that. They believe it and who am I to argue?

I’ve hit a lot of rocks, ditches, sharp turns. I’ve had my “life vehicle” battered to wreckage. I learned, painfully and slowly there is a time to put down the reins, look in the mirror and face reality. Even when it isn’t what you want.  There comes a time to give up trying to control your world and go with the flow. To find a better path.

Your perfect, beautifully controlled life can turn upside-down in a split second. For others, it’s slower. For me, it was at the pace at which bones and joints calcify. I refused to pay attention to the wreckage of my spine. It was mind over matter. I was strong. I could make it work, no matter what.

Good idea. But mind-over-matter only takes you so far. Major life changes do not happen in an afternoon. True they can occur in one messy crash … or they can take over bit by bit over decades. I found a great doctor who told me something I had heard before but had hoped there was another answer.

He said: “Your back has got you through this far. It’ll take you the rest of the way. Pain control, gentle exercise. Recognize your limits. Don’t do anything stupid. No car crashes. No falling. No lifting.”

No horses, no hauling. Got that. And of course, this was before all the heart surgery, which further eliminated the likelihood of any of these perilous activities. So. I’m not doing anything stupid.

Okay, I’m not doing anything very stupid. Maybe only a little stupid. And nothing that will break anything that isn’t already broken.

There’s no moral to this story. It’s life. If you don’t die young, you will get old. Which means unless you are exceptionally lucky, parts of you will hurt. Whether or not you are in a position to help fix the hurt with surgery, exercise, physical therapy, or medication? It depends on what’s wrong.

The only thing you cannot plan is a life over which you maintain full control. No one gets that.

We all have some control, but ultimately, no one has full control. Ever.

When life throws you a curve, you have a choice. Spend your time fighting for something you can’t be or do — or with a bit of grace, find your way to being whoever you are now, in this time and place.

Not winning all the battles doesn’t have to be tragic. That is where you have some control. You can view changes as a challenge or as a catastrophe. How you see them is up to you. Pretending they aren’t there can be calamitous.

Reality is not the worst place to live. Life is full of weirdness, lies, and illusion, but going face-to-face with the truth can be uplifting. You don’t have to give up living. You do have to learn to live a life that works. For you.

RIDING IT OUT – Marilyn Armstrong

For almost two years, I’ve barely used the chair lift. I was glad it was there and it was useful for hauling groceries and suitcases upstairs and that was good for both of us. But lately, I’ve started using it. I realized there was absolutely nothing to be gained by dragging myself up two staircases, gasping, wheezing, with heart pounding.

Although I can —  and do — get up and down the stairs, it’s slow and getting slower. It’s more than a bit nerve-wracking too. It takes me a while to take that first downward step (up is easier) and I’m always sure I’m going to fall. I have fallen a lot over the years, including when I was younger. I can’t seem to find my balance going down.

One step at a time and carrying packages, stairs are impossible and dangerous. Riding up and down the stairs takes the fear and pain out of the process of getting in and out of the house. I’m okay walking on the sidewalk and the floors, but the stairs put such a strain on my lower spine and hips, I went from feeling okay to feeling ready to collapse.

It was time to actually use the chair lift.

Not only is it a way to get upstairs not on my feet, but it ‘s also possible to get someone in a wheelchair into the house and up to our living level. Before that, we’ve had to tell anyone with disabilities that our house was unready for them.

I reached the end of assuming that I’m going to get better and the stairs won’t be as difficult. Asthma is worse, probably because it’s untreated and my spine is worse, especially at the S1 juncture which was never fused — unlike the three discs above it. The pressure on the spinal cord is serious and unlikely to improve. There’s no exercise that will improve it.

It’s my final nod to the realities of my life, the “giving in” to the pain as something that won’t get better. The new drugs I’m taking help quite a bit — as long as I walk on relatively flat ground. I can climb a little bit if I am very careful. I can cook and clean in the house and if the ground is not rough, I’m mobile. To a point.

When I’m tired, I have to take it seriously. I need to stop and rest. When I do that, I don’t fall apart and I stay reasonably well. No amount of goodwill, determination, or optimism will change the condition of my spine. I think not hauling myself up and downstairs will probably marginally improve my mobility.

I cannot begin to tell you how much this isn’t what I envisioned for my life as a senior. I was planning to be a dashing senior. Like in the movies. Gray and wise, but ready to do it all.

Sometimes giving in is the right thing to do. I wanted to force myself to be that snazzy senior I imagined. Overall, I think it’s better if I stay alive and able to move!

PEAK PROVOCATIVE QUESTION #31 – Marilyn Armstrong

Fandango’s Provocative Question #31

Thirty-one is one of my “lucky numbers.” I’ve lived in houses numbered 31 twice, won prizes for number 31 (a TV and a long weekend in New York city including a visit to the (then) brand new Yankee Stadium) and more.

I don’t have a follow-up to this comment. That’s the whole story.

Recently we’ve been watching that 15-year-old tennis whiz kid. I got to thinking: “What if you are the biggest and best at whatever you do when you are 14 or 15? When you are the best tennis player ever especially if you are merely 15, or you are the best baton twirler on earth at 14? Where do you go after that? Is it all downhill?”

This question first occurred to me when I watched the baton twirler on television maybe ten years ago and I was thinking “This is her peak moment and it’s all downhill from here.”

I suspect this may be part of the problem with child stars. They grow up. Their best years are behind them and a lot of them don’t work much after they complete their teen years.

I don’t think I’ve had a peak year yet. Maybe I never will. I’ve had great moments. I’ve had joyful moments, little thrilling times. I’ve had a couple of really great years, breathtaking visual and emotional moments … but nothing I would call “the peak.”

I’m not sure there will be a peak. Good years, bad years, terrific years, historic years … but peak? Life is a series of peaks and valleys, dips and mountains.

That’s fine with me.

HOW GO YOUR YEARS? – Marilyn Armstrong

When I was in college, two of the women with whom I became friends were suicides. Neither of them was happy, but I would never have guessed either of them was suicidal.

One of them was just 19 when she killed herself. The other was 21.

For this reason, I have never assumed “everything is fine” for anyone. Even when you ask, you will only know what you are told and that is rarely the entire truth. People are secretive about their deepest fears and thoughts.

“How are you?”

“Everything is fine.”

“You don’t sound fine.”

“No, really. I’m fine.”

How many times can you ask before you realize you aren’t going to discover more? When people mention that aging makes them “think about mortality” I realize I began thinking about mortality when Karin died and then again when Anna jumped. Also when a young couple, just married, crashed their car into a truck and died on the highway.

Yet again, when my first husband got kidney cancer at 34 and lived, but still died young of heart disease and medical errors. Then my brother died of pancreatic cancer at 61. One of Garry’s colleagues — in her early 40s — died while waiting for a bus in Cambridge. When my first husband’s father died of his second heart attack at 52, I was pregnant and sorry he never met his grandson. For that matter, Jeff died at 53 and never met his granddaughter.

I knew a young person who died of a heart attack before age 21. Another internet friend, Rosa, died last year of a heart attack. I only found out when her mother called to tell me. She wasn’t yet 35.

And of course, there are all the friends our age who are battling cancer, dementia, heart conditions, not to mention the ones who have “beaten” cancer, but of course, you never really beat cancer. You are remitted and that will have to do.

When people complain about not being as active as they were when they were many years younger, I think they are missing the point. Age or disease can do you in at any point in your life. You don’t have to get old. You can be 21, an athlete, and collapse on the court.

The Dark Lord will have his way. When and how it hits you is partly how you used your body and your DNA. Depending on your constitution, your ability to walk, run, ride, or whatever you do may be compromised. Even eliminated.

Then again, are you breathing on your own? Do you get out of bed in the morning, even if it is a struggle? Do you find joy in your life? Do you laugh? Are there people you love who also love you? Is life interesting? Are you still curious to know what’s going to happen?

If any of these things are true, yay for you. You are alive.

Mortality is always with us, whether we are old or young. We may not be paying attention to it, or we may be under some delusion that we are exempt from “the end” because we exercise and eat right. But there will be an end.

Maybe, as Jeff used it say, it’ll be a runaway beer truck. Or something unexpectedly medical. It may be tomorrow or in 60 years. Whatever time you have, be gracious and grateful. Many people don’t get a life full of years. Others get the years and manage to be miserable anyway.

Enjoy your years, however many you have. And while you are at it, be nice to the people you know and especially those who love you and who you love. Kindness is the least expensive and most valuable gift we have to give.

IMMORTALITY AND AGING – Marilyn Armstrong

I am not sure I ever believed I was immortal, most likely because I didn’t think about it. Until sometime during college, when my various courses forced me to ponder the nature of life and death. College was the peak time for existential mental muck-raking. Being young makes these subjects philosophical.

Was this the result of too many hallucinogenic drugs? No. It was the lectures and classes. It was the books. Too many books.

College can’t hurt you if all you do is hang out on the quad or wander around looking for a bridge game where they need a fourth. I actually went to class.

I took courses like  “The Philosophy of Religion” and “Phenomenology.”

I always had a steady list of existential books I needed to read for classes, in English and French. Sartre, Camus, Lawrence Durrell, et al.

It was deep stuff and is the literature I won’t read today.

That this hyper-intellectual phase of my life coincided nicely with my first actual near-death experience was pure chance. It cured me of pondering the meaning of life and death and aimed me more in the direction of staying alive.

Nothing is more aggravating than college students pondering the philosophical meaning of death who suddenly make a realization.

“Hey, I could really DIE.”

It takes the fun and philosophy out of the experience and adds a hard edge of fear. I’m pretty sure we all thought we were smart and had a solid grip on the life and death stuff.

I was so wrong.

As I got older, I knew people who died. There was nothing philosophical about it. A couple of suicidal friends. Aging family members. The odd car skidding down the edge of a mountain.

Now that I’m a senior citizen, I know I’m very mortal. One of these days, it will be a certainty.

I’ll get back to you on that.

PROVOCATIVE QUESTION: WHAT ABOUT PREDESTINATION? – Marilyn Armstrong

This week’s provocative question is a spinoff of a question that Melanie (Sparks From a Combustible Mind) asked in her last Share Your World post.

That question from Melanie got me thinking about fate and predestination. So here’s this week’s provocative question.

I’m not entirely sure what “predestination” means. By this do you mean a rigid “ending” that you can’t change, no matter what? Because I don’t believe in that.

I think we end up where we are supposed to be. I don’t think it’s a rigid, unchanging finish. I think it is flexible and will change depending on the choices we make. But there’s a likely place we will probably land.

I don’t believe in a frozen, unbending future. More like a conclusion based on our intelligence, status, birthplace, education … and the things to which we are attracted and choose along our path as well as the kind of people to whom we are attracted.

This is how I like to describe it.

Life is like a bus trip, except you don’t know where you are going and you can’t drive the bus. No ticket, no map.

You will meet other travelers on the bus. Some will be your friends and maybe lovers and mates. They enter the bus at various stops and get off where they must. You may not be happy about it.

The bus will sometimes stop and give you the chance to visit and enjoy the scenery, but eventually, you’ll have to get back on the bus.

You still won’t have any idea where the bus is going and you still can’t drive. Sometimes, the road will be very rough and treacherous. Other times, the road will be smooth and the scenery beautiful. When all is smooth and lovely, you may think you’ve got everything under control.

You will never have everything under control. You never know when the bus will take a sudden turn or for that matter, drive off a bridge.

Life will take you where it takes you.

I don’t know what, if anything, God has to do with it. Maybe something. Maybe nothing. I have no idea. But if prayer makes you feel better, I say go for it. Because whatever makes you feel better — especially if it costs nothing — is worth doing.

STRANDED ON A DESERT ISLAND? – Rich Paschall

The “What Ifs” of Life, by Rich Paschall

Certainly, you have seen some of the various questions surrounding you being stranded on a desert island.  If you were stranded, who would you like to be with?  What 5 things would you take along?  What 5 things that you have now could you do without?  What one album would you take?  What electronic device would you need?  This assumes you would not run out of batteries I guess.

These, and questions like them, present interesting challenges to a person that they may not consider otherwise.  Who is the most important person in your life?  Is that the one you want by your side?  Perhaps you would rather have someone with survival skills.  Perhaps you would not want the other to be stranded too.  Perhaps you would rather be alone.

What 5 things would you take along?  This really calls for creative thinking.  You may consider clothes, but do you need more than you are wearing?  You might consider your music, but would that come ahead of other basic needs.  Perhaps you are one that considers music a basic need.  I know those type of people.

Birdie Beach

Would you think of camping supplies?  If you are not already a camper or outdoors person, would any of that mean anything to you.  I guess you could be clever and say you need a lifetime supply of canned goods, but then don’t forget the can opener.  Or something to start a fire.  I have heard all my life that you can start a fire by rubbing two sticks together, but I have never seen anyone actually do it.  Can you?  If so, you may be on my stranded island list.

DawnFlight-300B-72

Would you consider tools to build a shelter?  Just exactly how handy are you and what kind of tools would be suited to your skills?  I guess an ax could serve many useful purposes.  Did you have it on your list?  Did you add a hammer?  You may not need it if you have an ax.  A knife? A pick?  A power drill?  Oops, no power.

Let’s say you had an electric device whose battery was solar-powered or recharged.  What then would you take along?  I think you will not get the internet, although some day you may get that from just about anywhere.  What will you do on your island in the meantime?

Sunrise Strider

If you could take just one album, what would it be?  This is a hard one for me.  When I get an album I like, I can play it over and over, but I do get tired of it eventually and put it on a shelf.  I guess I would pick someone’s greatest hits album, but whose?

Let’s forget about the desert island for a moment and bring you back home.  What if you had just one day to live?  What would you do?  Who would you see?  What would you say?

The “one day to live” scenario is thrown out there on social media and elsewhere about as often as the desert island scenarios.  It is even more challenging as people think of all the things they were going to do but never got around to it.  The long trips are out.  The classes to learn some skill are out.

So we may be left with planning a last meal.  Are we making this feast or heading to a favorite restaurant?  Perhaps it is neither, as we go to someplace we have never tried before.  I hear there is a new French restaurant in town.  Maybe I want to go there.

75-RosyDawn-NIK-CR

Are there people to whom you absolutely must say something?  Do you need to say good-bye to someone?  Do you need to tell someone you love him or her?  Do you need to apologize for something that happened in the past?  With a limited amount of time, which people are on the list for final conversations?

The 24-hour time frame automatically eliminates a lot of possibilities.  Would you watch a movie, go to a show, see a play?  Those all seem like such poor use of precious hours to me.

Would you go to an expensive concert if you had tickets, or would the expense no longer matter?  Perhaps you should give them away and do something else.  Would you watch television, YouTube videos, surf the internet?  I guess those practices would begin to seem like quite the waste when “the days (or hours) dwindle down to a precious few.”

96-SunriseWalkNIK-CR-1

What if we lived our lives like only a few things were really important?  What if we lived our lives like there was only a day left, even if there were 25 thousand days left?  Wouldn’t it be richer and more meaningful?

There is nothing wrong with looking down the road, but too many of us are not living for today.  That is why those stranded island and one day to live scenarios are so scary.  They immediately call to mind all the things we missed out on in life and can not go back to fix.

96-ocean-Sunrise

When you are left on an island or reach the final day, make sure you did what you wanted and needed to do.  That you respected everyone.  That you told people you loved them, so you don’t leave with regrets.

Be sure that you mended fences in case there is no time later to do it.  If you do this, the one day to live challenges on social media might not be so scary.  By the way, if you are stranded on a desert island, it helps to have a volleyball named Wilson.

WHAT’S THE POINT OF IT ALL? – Marilyn Armstrong

What’s the POINT?

“321 Quote Me Created by A Guy Called Bloke and K9 Doodlepip!

The subject of these quotes will be:  “Life.”

I have a lot of stuff for this one!

“Life. Can’t live with it, can’t live without it.”
— Marilyn Armstrong

If you aren’t sure, this is the movie to watch.

In other words, zero

And now the dope is mostly legal most of the time …

Snoopy and Charlie Brown discover life

The meaning of life during dinner with Mom

Anyone who has something they might want to add? Please feel free to do it. I just had a bundle of “meaning of life” cartoons … and a few posts too.

I’ll spare you the posts.

IT’S GOING TO BE A BUMPY RIDE – Marilyn Armstrong

Life is a road which urgently needs repaving. It’s full of pot-holes, rocks, broken branches, quicksand, and mud. It’s amazing how anyone can navigate the distance. What makes repaving plans tricky is no two people travel the same road.

There are far too many roads. All of them need grading and paving.

Okay, sure, sometimes paths cross … even run side-by-side occasionally for miles — years — at a time. But even when they cross or run parallel, they aren’t one road.

It’s like a family with three kids. Say you’ve got an older brother and a younger sister. Your brother becomes a businessman and lives a pretty normal life.

Your sister discovers her own version of chaos theory. She proceeds to live a life of crisis and yeah, chaos. Not theory, but the real deal. As for you, you’re not entirely sane, but compared to your sister, you’re solidly grounded and compared to your brother, you’re a wild child. That’s worrisome because you know how much weird stuff is going on in your head.

All three kids had the same parents. As far as anyone knows, you also all had (more or less) the same upbringing.

So, I guess that road is going to stay uneven. Life will continue to be unfair. It will leave many of us looking skyward, searching for answers and sometimes, for questions.

We have great parents, crappy lives. Horrible parents, amazing lives. That’s just life. Infinitely variable, lumpy, bumpy, and charmingly uneven.

NOW THE DAYS ARE SHORT – Rich Paschall

BUT NOW THE DAYS ARE SHORT, RICH PASCHALL

Photo: Garry Armstrong

When I was seventeen, it was a very good year…

When I turned seventeen, I had finished my Junior year in high school and was looking forward to the Senior year at a new school.  It was a bit scary, I admit.  No one wants to leave his mates behind and start again, but that was my fate, not my choice.

At least the new school was in the neighborhood, and I already knew a few students who were going there.  Although we did not admit at the time, the final year of high school put many new thoughts into our heads.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

You may think sex or sexual orientation, but those thoughts had already arrived years earlier.  All the passing of a few years meant was that these thoughts and curiosities intensified.  As you might imagine, a few of the boys and girls were a little more advanced than the others.  I think that stands out to you a little more at seventeen.

The new school brought new friends, new interests and new teachers.  There were subjects and activities the other school lacked.  The final high school year also proved to be, as I suspect it did for many of my friends, one of the best years of my life.  Some of those friends and those memories stayed with me over the decades.  I had no idea then that it would be the “best of times.”

When I was twenty-one, it was a very good year…

Four years later, brought a similar situation.  It was time to move on to Senior year of university and hopefully finish my degree on time (I didn’t).  It did not hold the lasting thrills of 17, but it did seem in a certain way to represent the transition to adulthood.  In reality, I was no more adult than at 20 or twenty-two.  It was just a symbolic thing.

The “coming of age” also allows you to drink legally, but that did not mean too much. I was days, weeks or months older than the friends I hung around with so it is not like we all headed off to some bar.  Still, the year seemed to hold a certain energy that young adulthood will give you if you let it.

When I was thirty-five, it was a very good year…

I had finally earned my Masters Degree.

It was not about career advancement.  It was about reaching a goal I had set years earlier.  I sometimes studied for the Comprehensive exams with a woman in her 70’s.  She was pretty much doing the same thing, reaching for a past dream.

I could tell her of the courses I had and of books I read, and she pushed me to study things I was certain would never be on the Masters’ exam again.  She was right about the exam questions and perhaps the reason we both marched up to receive our diplomas on the same day.

It felt like I had hit my stride at 35, although I can not really point to other reasons why.  If you have good friends, good times, and a reason for doing things, all seems right with the world.

Well, almost all seemed right.  I did not find the one right person to share my very good years.  Honestly, I can not say I looked all that hard.  I guess I was having too good of a time.

But now the days are short, I’m in the autumn of the year…

One thing that you become acutely aware of as you get older is that the days are short.  They don’t seem to last as long as the days of youth, you don’t seem to get as much done and you certainly don’t feel thirty-five.  You realize, no matter how desperately you try to suppress the thought, that the days are indeed numbered.

Even if you are optimistically believing that there are, let’s say, thirty-five years left, you know none will be like the year you were thirty-five.

With any luck at all, some will still be very good years.

If your life is like a fine wine, there will be many years which are a fine vintage.  Wine aficionados will refer to this as a “very good year.”  I hope to still have them.  None are 17 or 21 or 35, nor will they be again.  With any luck at all, however, I will be able to drink in the rest and enjoy them as if I were sitting in a vineyard in France with one of my best friends while we recall our great adventures together.

And I think of my life as vintage wine
From fine old kegs,
From the brim to the dregs,
It poured sweet and clear.
It was a very good year.

Although many had recorded this song, it won the Grammy Award for Best Vocal Performance, Male, in 1966 for Frank Sinatra.

It Was A Very Good Year, by Ervin Drake, 1961, lyrics © SONGWRITERS GUILD OF AMERICA OBO LINDABET MUSIC INC

GAME OF LIFE AND THE MEANING OF EVERYTHING – Marilyn Armstrong

I pick these up from Melanie B Cee at:

sparksfromacombustiblemind –
EMBERS FROM SOMEONE DOGGEDLY TRYING TO MAKE SENSE OF IT ALL

She gets them elsewhere so I’ll pass it upward and she can pass it forward or backward. Whichever. Chainmail has never worked well for me.

This is an interesting bunch of questions. I probably would have been more amusing with them when I was younger. I’ve pretty much settled down.

The Rules …

1] Leave the Permanent Questions [PQ] always in place PLEASE.

2] Reblog should you so desire

3] If you do reblog, a pingback would always be welcomed so l don’t miss it.

4] This is a non-tagger/ non-nomination game.

Today’s questions are perhaps a little bit more taxing, however, this is the way of life as we know it, and there is never anything wrong with a little bit of thought provocation is there?


Questions:


Q1] What is your take on ‘free will?’

I will restate something someone said to me many years ago. “Life,” she said, “is a room. There’s furniture there. You can sit on the sofa or a chair. Or even on the floor. But you can’t leave the room because that’s your room. And your life.”

Personally, I tend to view it more as a bus. We get on the bus when we are born and we go traveling. We don’t really know where we are going or when the bus will stop. We are not driving the bus and whenever we try to drive, we discover we actually don’t know how. Our attempts to drive are often rudely interrupted by a reality we didn’t expect. We can sit anywhere we like, enjoy the company of other travelers, and occasionally, when the bus stops for fuel, we get to wander around in some strange and new place if we so choose.

We don’t know how long the trip will take or exactly where we will end up. Somewhere. Hopefully somewhere we love.

The single thing we can never do is drive the bus. Whenever we are certain we are (finally) in control, we soon discover we are not. We have free will, but only to a point.

Q2] We all ask ourselves at one time or another what is the point?  So what is the point to our existence?

I’m not sure there IS a point.

Q3] What do you believe about Fate and Karma?

I don’t know. It depends on when you ask me. Mostly, I don’t know.

Q4] As a species, how do you think humans will become extinct or do you believe that we will not?

I think we will go extinct, but I also believe the universe will become extinct and the sun will blow up. Nothing lasts forever.

PQ5] What is your belief with regards the meaning of life?

Another “I don’t know.” Does life have a meaning? Or is life itself the meaning?

Q6] Ok, fess up, do you believe in aliens from outer space – is there really other life out there in the far-reaching galaxies beyond our own?

I assume there is something out there that is intelligent. I’m also pretty sure we either haven’t met them, or they dropped by, took one look, decided we were hopeless and left.

PQ7] What is your best quote for ‘living life?’

Life is short. Eat dessert first.

Q8] What doesn’t kill us – makes us stronger – yes or no? Explain.

That is one of those placebo explanations that people use when they don’t know what else to say. Many things ARE stronger than us and yes, it can and does kill us. Many people I loved are dead. “It” didn’t make them stronger.

Q9] What would you say have been your biggest successes in life?

Still being here when I’m pretty sure I ought to be dead.

Q10] If you could find out the exact time and cause of your death – would you want to know?

No.

Q11] Is it more important to help yourself, help your family, help your society, or help the world?

All of the above, but I think I’ve helped my family to the extent that I am capable of helping. I think I’d rather try and help our society, such as it isn’t and after that, what’s left of our world.

PQ12] If humanity was put on trial by an advanced race of aliens, how would you defend humanity and argue for its continued existence?

I wouldn’t. I think as a race we don’t deserve our world.

Q13]  What is the biggest waste of human potential?

Our overall stupidity.

Q14] We often see those that write ‘what would you say to a younger you?’ However, what would you say today to a future you?

I would run like hell. Anything I said would be a disaster. And undoubtedly wrong in every possible way.

PQ15] Why do you think that as a species, humans need to believe in something? Be this religion, fate, karma, magical, mystique and so on.

I don’t think we need to believe in something. Many people don’t and they are just fine. Right and wrong are not religious principles. They are part of our DNA.

Q16] If we could not retain any of our memories – who would we be?

Jellyfish.

Q17] Time is such an important part of our world, but do you think you would notice if time was altered in any way?

It would depend. Am I still in this world? Am I in a parallel universe? Am I suffering hallucinations? Dementia?

Q18] How important is playing in living a healthy and fulfilling life?

Critical to development. If we don’t play, we do not grow. It is during play that we learn to lose, learn to make deals, learn how to arrange life to suit our needs.

Q19] With no laws or rules to influence your behavior, how do you think you would behave?

Exactly the way I do now, except hopefully, with many fewer bills to pay.

PQ20] Are you deleting any questions, if so which ones?

Nope. Just went with the flow.

Q21] Should euthanasia be legal? Why or why not?

Yes, because I think if we believe a dog in pain needs to be let out of his misery, why would we be less kind to a human being? But that’s an opinion. Not a fact. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and I will respect it.

HOW ARE YOUR YEARS? – Marilyn Armstrong

When I was in college, two of the women with whom I became friends were suicides. Neither of them was happy, but I would never have guessed either of them was suicidal.

One of them was just 19 when she killed herself. The other was 21.

I have never assumed “everything is fine” for anyone. Even when you ask, you will only know what you are told and that is rarely the whole truth. People are secretive about their deepest fears and thoughts.

“How are you?”

“Everything is fine.”

“You don’t sound fine.”

“No, really. I’m fine.”

How many times do you ask before you realize you aren’t going to find out anything more? When people mention that aging makes them “think about mortality” I realize I began thinking about mortality when Karin died and then again when Anna jumped. Also when a young couple, just married, crashed their car into a truck and died on the highway.

Yet again, when my first husband got kidney cancer at 34 and lived, but still died young of heart disease and medical errors. Then my brother died of pancreatic cancer at 61. One of Garry’s colleagues — in her early 40s — died while waiting for a bus in Cambridge. When my first husband’s father died of his second heart attack at 52, I was pregnant and sorry he never met his grandson. For that matter, Jeff died at 53 and never met his granddaughter.

I knew a young person who died of a heart attack before age 21. Another internet friend, Rosa, died a month ago of a heart attack. I only found out yesterday when her mother called. She wasn’t yet 35.

And of course, there are all the friends our age who are battling cancer, dementia, heart conditions, not to mention the ones who have “beaten” cancer, but of course, you never really beat cancer. You are remitted and that will have to do.

When people complain about not being as active as they were when they were many years younger, I think they are missing the point. Age will have its way. How it hits you is partly a matter of how you used your body and your personal DNA. Depending on your constitution, your ability to walk, run, ride, or whatever you do may be compromised. Even eliminated.

But then again … are you breathing on your own? Do you get out of bed in the morning, even if it is a struggle? Do you find joy in your life? Do you laugh? Are there people you love who love you too? Is life interesting? Are you still curious to know what’s going to happen?

If any of these things are true, yay for you. You are alive.

Mortality is always with us, whether we are old or young. We may not be paying attention to it, or we may be under some delusion that we are exempt from “the end” because we exercise and eat right. But there will be an end.

Maybe, as Jeff used it say, it’ll be a runaway beer truck. Or something unexpectedly medical. It may be tomorrow or in 60 years. Whatever time you have, be gracious and grateful. Many people don’t get a life full of years. Others get the years and manage to be miserable through all of it.

Enjoy your years, however many you have.

RIDING THE ROLLER COASTER – Sue Vincent (REBLOG)

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The day did not start well, either for me or the little fish I had to remove from the tank. It was no surprise that it was dead this morning… it had been looking a little off-colour the night before, though nothing too serious, until one of the larger fish took advantage of its incapacitated state and started using it like a water basketball, swimming around with it in its mouth, chased by its friends. I had put a stop to that ‘game’ and would have removed the ailing minnow to a makeshift hospital tank, had it not hidden itself in the roots of a plant.

I couldn’t blame the fish… they were just following their instincts. Even though such a ‘game’ looked cruel from my perspective, small fish can easily be frightened to death and Nature’s often brutal euthanasia may have been a better option than a long, drawn-out illness. I will never know.

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The day got a lot better at my son’s though, when he sent me out into the garden. Trooper, one of the two ‘miracle-fish’ currently residing in my son’s pond, is still with us. He and another golden orfe had both fallen ill with dreadful ulcers some time ago…we had no hope of their survival when we saw them floating, belly-up, side by side. One of the fish, though, made a dramatic recovery and is back to swimming happily with his shoal. Trooper has not been so lucky, but each time we think he must be at his last gasp, he rallies and proves he can still swim with the best of them, albeit a little lopsided… so the daily checking on Trooper is always a bit of a rollercoaster, as we worry not only about his recovery, but about whether he can escape any local predators… like the heron and the cats.

The heron flies over most days, but the cats…the ones who moved in en masse to my son’s home over the winter… seem to have disappeared. The food in the automatic feeder still disappears daily too, but I haven’t seen any of them in weeks now. Their fickleness is a little sad, but then…that’s why I prefer dogs.

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On a nicer note, mother magpie brought her babies into the garden today. We had worried about them too when the crows had mobbed the nest at the top of the tree. We’ve been worrying about the birds for a while, as the neighbours chose to cut down an awful lot of the trees that they called home, and for a while, the garden fell silent. The little birds were soon back, though, and it was good to watch the young magpies establishing their familial pecking order over the bird bath, while the wren sang on the fence and the tits and finches raided the bird table.

Apart from checking on Trooper, though, my mission had been to photograph the bees on the globe thistle…and that was a definite delight, apart from the sadness of the bee caught in the spider’s web. It was still and lifeless, too late for any help… there was nothing I could have done… and after the fish, I would have hesitated to interfere with the natural process.

Life is constantly being recycled, from the decay of fallen fruit and leaves that feeds the earth, to the recycling we, with our emotional view on life and death, find distressing or distasteful. There is a great dance of energy in motion, flowing through first one lifeform then another as each completes its allotted span and purpose, returning the components of its life to the greater life of earth.

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Even so, it was sad to see the little lifeless creature, paralysed and caught in the web below the flower that is drawing more bees than any other at the moment. I love their soft, furry bodies of the bumblebees, covered in pollen that seems to refract a rainbow of colour and I spent a pleasant half hour watching them.

Continue reading at The Silent Eye

via Riding the rollercoaster